October 8, 2008

NATO: Gravitas, or Graveyard?

Hatched by Dafydd

Frequent commenter K2aggie07 sent us a link to this Stratfor analysis of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), an editorial that is... disheartening, in a sense, but envigorating in another. To boil it down to a nutshell, Dr. George Friedman (founder and CEO of Stratfor) argues that NATO is a spent force, unable even to stand up to Putin's Russia -- let alone the more exotic threats posed by the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis.

If this is true (and he surely knows more about it than I), then we are simultaneously weakened by the loss of what has been our most streadfast allied organization, mostly financed by us; yet also liberated by no longer having to kow-tow to the increasingly Eurocentric NATO and NATO-driven policies that are still oriented around fighting the Soviet Union, seventeen years after it ceased to exist.

Think of it; we no longer need waste time, blood, and treasure...

  • Soothing ruffled European feathers, pleading with them (our fine feathered friends, not their fine feathers), begging, even bribing them to comply with their most basic obligations;
  • Reassuring them that France, Spain, Portugal, and Estonia are every bit as important to the world as the United Kingdom and the United States;
  • Holding back on military operations, so that non-American NATO forces can not only keep up but pretend to be in the vanguard;
  • Covering for NATO "allies" who show up with strict rules of engagement that, in fact, prohibit any engagement;
  • Turning a blind eye to NATO member states which don't even live up to the democratic standard set by a typical American high-school class president's campaign;
  • And spending billions of dollars for the enviable privilege of being spat upon by our pals.

And if NATO is truly defunct, what about that other relic of the Cold War, the Untied Nations? Given the presence of Russia and China (not to mention France) as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- thus wielding veto power -- what is the point of belonging? Would Russia, for example, ever allow a U.N. expedition to send a significant military force to Georgia, Ukraine, Poland, or the Baltic nations, a force big enough to seriously impede Russia's own plans to "reintegrate" the "renegade provinces" of the old Evil Empire?

Friedman begins with this story, which I had not seen reported by our "downstream" media (a term I heisted from an advert for the Dennis Miller radio show):

German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to St. Petersburg last week for meetings with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. The central question on the table was Germany’s position on NATO expansion, particularly with regard to Ukraine and Georgia. Merkel made it clear at a joint press conference that Germany would oppose NATO membership for both of these countries, and that it would even oppose placing the countries on the path to membership. Since NATO operates on the basis of consensus, any member nation can effectively block any candidate from NATO membership....

In one sense, Merkel’s reasons for her stance are simple. Germany is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas. If the supply were cut off, Germany’s situation would be desperate — or at least close enough that the distinction would be academic. Russia might decide it could not afford to cut off natural gas exports, but Merkel is dealing with a fundamental German interest, and risking that for Ukrainian or Georgian membership in NATO is not something she is prepared to do.

She can’t bank on Russian caution in a matter such as this, particularly when the Russians seem to be in an incautious mood. Germany is, of course, looking to alternative sources of energy for the future, and in five years its dependence on Russia might not be nearly as significant. But five years is a long time to hold your breath, and Germany can’t do it.

But it gets worse. Friedman notes that even giving Georgia or Ukraine NATO membership would be a meaningless gesture, since the alliance hasn't sufficient military power left to stop another Russian invasion of either country. He doesn't mention, but I will, the fact that NATO, the "many-headed one," cannot for that very reason -- too many cooks and crooks -- react quickly enough to a military strike to make a difference, to do anything but be crushed.

(Imagine if, instead of Gen. David Petraeus running the Iraq war, we'd had thirty different defense ministers, each of the same rank and authority as all the rest, who had to get together in a room and come to a consensus how to respond on a day-to-day basis to Iranian Quds forces, rampaging Sadrites, and al-Qaeda in Iraq.)

NATO was established in 1949 specifically to counter the imperial aims of the Soviet Union; its most visible manifestation was the counterforce to the Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact in Central Europe, with NATO establishing 180 brigades, a few thousand tanks, and a few thousand ground-support and tactical aircraft in (then) West Germany and other Western states -- where they were badly outnumbered by the Warsaw Pact's own conventional forces. NATO therefore also incorporated nuclear forces, the Soviets followed suit, and the Cold war standoff was born.

But now, NATO hasn't even enough military support from its member countries (other than the U.S. and the U.K.) to hold off a denuded Russia alone. NATO has fallen and can't get up.

So what about the future? How will the new president handle this astonishing change to a status quo that has been around for donkey's years?

John S. McCain will, I believe, accept the inevitable and begin negotiating multiple alliances to replace NATO, perhaps one for each theater of operations. Maybe we could dust off that "organization of democratic states," which others have suggested as an (unworkable) successor to the U.N., and instead recast it as an über-alliance to coordinate and oversee all the smaller alliances for specific strategies. That would mimic on the international stage the vital military reforms pushed though the Pentagon by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

I suspect McCain has already been thinking about this.

I have no idea what would be Barack H. Obama's response to the enfeeblement of NATO; I suppose he would meet without preconditions with the presidents, prime ministers, and assorted supreme leaders of Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom... and beg them all to tell him what positions America should assume in the future (the primary position would be "supine"), what world test we must pass, so that the rest of the membership will allow us to stay in NATO... or at least continue to pay NATO's bills, even if they won't allow us to vote anymore.

I suspect this eventuality has never even crossed the One's mind; he may not be sure what NATO is. It's much older than he, so it can't be of much significance.

In any event, the era of NATO is evidently over. The era of the U.N. is on its last legs. The era of flexible, powerful, but temporary alliances rapidly approaches... and our major news organizations are obsessing over Sarah Palin's per diem.

Don't forget to vote.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, October 8, 2008, at the time of 7:01 PM

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The following hissed in response by: hunter

If NATO is spent, then we are in grave peril. Its senility will lead people to make bad decisions about its reactions, and its reactions will be bad.
Who was that blithering idiot who said history was over in 1989?
Can you imagine going into a major war with Obama, and America coming out anything like victorious?
I need a ticket outta here.

The above hissed in response by: hunter [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2008 5:46 PM

The following hissed in response by: k2aggie07

Fascinating times we live in, eh? I'm not sure if started following finance and geopolitics right at the cusp of Great Happenings or if things such as these go on all the time and previously "I was only an egg".

Only time will tell. Great post.

The above hissed in response by: k2aggie07 [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2008 6:24 PM

The following hissed in response by: JenLArt

Those sound like appropriate tasks for Vice President, and former governor Palin to be involved in. Since, as governor, she already deals with national security issues in Alaska with our unfavorable nation neighbor there.

The above hissed in response by: JenLArt [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 9, 2008 8:59 PM

The following hissed in response by: raven

Who was it that said "If we do not learn from our history, we are bound to relive it" Well folks, the 1933 "Glass Steagall" act was set in place to prevent the economic catastrophe that we now face.

It seems to me that when, in 1999, W. J. Clinton signed into law the act the rescinded the "Glass Steagall" act, that he set the stage for the disaster. I hate to admit it but the law that he signed was passed by a, then republican controlled congress. He could have vetoed it it he was really smart in the area of economics.

Can anyone spell "Fund raising"?

The above hissed in response by: raven [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2008 10:48 AM

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